Who is this? It's me

Who is this? It's me

What is national identity? Is it important in today's world? I never seriously thought about it. In Finland, they ask "Mistä olet kotoisin?" which literally means "Where are you from?". I've never been asked, "Who are you?" I always answered that I was from Russia, and this is logical: before moving to Finland, I lived in Russia for 17 years.

I was born in Ukraine. When I was 8 years old, my parents decided to move to Russia. Then it was the Soviet Union. Every year we went to Ukraine for the holidays. My grandparents lived in a village. Now they are no longer alive, but all my relatives live there.

On February 24, the war began not only all over the world, but also inside me. It was very difficult for me to understand what I felt. On the one hand, there was fear for relatives in Ukraine - two of my brothers fought. On the other hand, I tried to understand my friends who live in Russia, to find excuses for their silence. So far none of them have told me that they are against the war.

I'm 10 years old. Sunday, my grandmother wakes me and my sister up, and we go to church. No persuasion to have breakfast first helps. You have to go to church being hungry. Grandmother sings in the church choir, everyone knows her grandchildren, so we must live up to expectations. And we don't let grandma down.

The more I hear that Ukraine is not a state at all, that all cities need to be razed to the ground, that Ukrainians are Nazis, the stronger childhood memories overwhelm me.

We ate, we needed to rest. Quiet time was of no discussion. Whether you want to sleep or not, you must. But you can embroider, and the choice, of course, is obvious. Grandmother takes out a box of threads, a special cloth and the “quiet pastime” begins.

Feelings, smells, people, streets through which you could walk with your eyes closed - all this is now constantly in my thoughts. I return to childhood, as if starting from it, and in this way I build my identity and self-awareness anew.

Now I realize that external circumstances can push a person of any age to rethink the role of ethnicity in his life, lead to the transformation of national identity. And this is the foundation, without which it is very difficult to resist external pressure.

Who is this? It's me, Maya, I'm 41 years old, I'm Ukrainian, and my native language is Russian. For more than 11 months I have been waiting for the end of the war between my homeland and the homeland of the language that I speak and think all my life.

© Maija Bondar - Image from the Who is this? It's me photography project
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Feelings, smells, people, streets through which you could walk with your eyes closed - all this is now constantly in my thoughts. I return to childhood, as if starting from it, and in this way, I build my identity and self-awareness anew.

© Maija Bondar - Image from the Who is this? It's me photography project
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Pain, fear, anger, hatred, darkness suck you in. And you need to make an effort to remain human and not get bogged down in these emotions, which bring nothing but destruction.

© Maija Bondar - I want to merge with nature, become invisible, not feel pain.
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I want to merge with nature, become invisible, not feel pain.

© Maija Bondar - Here is my Ukrainian birth certificate, Russian passport and Finnish passport.
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Here is my Ukrainian birth certificate, Russian passport and Finnish passport.

© Maija Bondar - During this time, I experienced many different emotions. I never thought that there are so many of them in a person.
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During this time, I experienced many different emotions. I never thought that there are so many of them in a person.

© Maija Bondar - I'm like in a dream, it's hard to believe what's happening. It's like it's not happening to me.
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I'm like in a dream, it's hard to believe what's happening. It's like it's not happening to me.

© Maija Bondar - Image from the Who is this? It's me photography project
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Now I realize that external circumstances can push a person of any age to rethink the role of ethnicity in his life, lead to the transformation of national identity. And this is the foundation, without which it is very difficult to resist external pressure.

© Maija Bondar - I was born in Ukraine, lived in Russia for 17 years, and now live in Finland for 17 years. Who am I?
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I was born in Ukraine, lived in Russia for 17 years, and now live in Finland for 17 years. Who am I?

© Maija Bondar - At about five o'clock in the morning Russia attacked Ukraine.
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At about five o'clock in the morning Russia attacked Ukraine.

© Maija Bondar - Image from the Who is this? It's me photography project
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My friends from Russia, they seem to be in a web, not understanding and not seeing everything that is happening around. It's very difficult for me to understand this.

© Maija Bondar - My grandmother read prayers every morning. When she died, my mother gave me her bible.
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My grandmother read prayers every morning. When she died, my mother gave me her bible.

© Maija Bondar - Image from the Who is this? It's me photography project
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The photographs show me. As a child, I wrote under the photos "who is this?" "It's me". I often ask myself this question now.

© Maija Bondar - My vivid memory from childhood, how my grandmother and I embroidered.
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My vivid memory from childhood, how my grandmother and I embroidered.

© Maija Bondar - On February 24, the roots were torn out of me.
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On February 24, the roots were torn out of me.

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